Efforts to free Sudanese prisoners successful, Foreign Ministry says

Egypt is behind mediation efforts that have secured the release of Sudanese prisoners detained by South Sudan during the recent fighting in the disputed Heglig oil field region, officials announced Wednesday.

The fighting broke out between Sudan and South Sudan, which announced its independence in July 2011, after the South seized the border-located Heglig oil field earlier this month. The border area between the two former civil war foes has yet to be clearly demarcated.

In mid-April, the South Sudan government published 14 pictures of Sudanese army soldiers it said had been captured in the area occupied by its troops.

In a statement, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy said South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit had responded to Egyptian mediation efforts, which included a visit from Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to Juba on 17 April to calm the situation.

The visit followed a phone call between Mayardit and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, during which the South Sudanese president agreed to free the Sudanese prisoners and hand them over to Egypt in preparation for their return to Khartoum.

Roshdy said the Foreign Ministry coordinated through the Egyptian embassies in Juba and Khartoum with the International Committee of the Red Cross to transfer the Sudanese prisoners to Cairo Wednesday.

He said they would be transported to Khartoum Wednesday evening.

Amr thanked the South Sudanese government for cooperating in the mediation efforts. He said Egypt will continue its efforts with the two parties to ensure their return to the negotiating table to resolve outstanding issues, according to the statement.

Sudanese Ambassador to Cairo Kamal Hassan Ali welcomed the success of Egypt’s mediation efforts and the release of the Sudanese detainees, saying Khartoum refuses to negotiate again with its southern neighbor.

“We are convinced that South Sudan does not have the will to achieve peace, but its forces continue to attack the border areas with the North, and therefore, there will be no returning to the negotiations until the security issues are resolved and the Southern Sudanese government stops supporting rebel movements,” Ali told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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